Blank Page

Any writer will tell you that the scariest, most daunting part of the process is the beginning. The blank page just stares at you, daring you to speak, and speaking makes you vulnerable. I’m convinced this is one reason babies learn to speak the way they do. Before they can say or understand any words, they practice using their voices, and at that point, they’re so darn cute that all the feedback they get is positive. Adults have a much harder time finding and using their voices, unless of course they’re still really cute (like Taylor Swift, who can apparently move mountains with a tumblr post).

I am not Taylor Swift, so this is hard.

I was talking to a friend the other day about why I haven’t been writing while on bed rest. I mean, it’s the perfect time to do it, right? And I thought it was because I just didn’t know where to start, but the real reason is that it’s too scary. Blogging about pregnancy is one thing, but blogging about pregnancy after losing a pregnancy is a lot of processing that I’ve been scared to do. I’ve been on bed rest for almost 6 weeks now, and without really even realizing it, the goal of every day has just been to distract myself and let the time pass. If I stop too long to think about the pregnancy, all the dangers come rushing at me, and when I’m home alone, that is too much for me to handle emotionally. So I’ve watched a LOT of Netflix, and I’ve been eternally grateful for the friends and family who’ve come by for a visit.

But just today, I’m starting to sense a change. On Friday, I’ll be 24 weeks. For most women with normal pregnancies, this is not a particularly special milestone, but for women with a history of 2nd trimester loss, it’s HUGE. At 24 weeks, the baby could possibly survive outside the womb, and at 24 weeks, hospitals will do everything they can to keep a baby alive should she decide to make her debut. Some hospitals will do their darndest at 23 weeks, and a few might attempt to resuscitate a baby at 22, but most won’t do anything before 24 weeks because the baby’s chances of survival are just too low.

I’m in a Facebook group for women with cervical incompetence, and almost every day, someone is celebrating having reached viability. I cannot emphasize enough what a big deal it is, so every day that I inch closer to it is a day with more hope.

And hope is really what transforms a blank page from something dreadful to a something possibly beautiful.

We’ve found ourselves recently starting to use more definitive language when we talk about the baby. We say “when” now instead of “if.” We worry about whether we’ll be good parents. We marvel at the fact that the hospital is going to just let us take her home without any supervision whatsoever. We argue about how we should decorate the nursery. And you know what? I don’t mind worrying or arguing like that because it means we’re turning a corner, and it’s a really nice place to be.

All the Rules You Ever Wanted to Know about Using Apostrophes and Making Things Plural

Well friends, it’s that time of year again! You are about to receive a glorious mountain of love and friendship in the form of ye olde annual Christmas cards! I don’t get very many myself, but I love looking through all the ones my parents get. They keep them all in a big bowl, and every year when I’m at their house, I sift through them, finding familiar faces and enjoying updates from family friends.

I’m here today, though, to offer a little help to those of you planning on sending out cards this year. I want to talk to you about apostrophes, which are apparently terribly confusing these days. I understand. There are a lot of rules, and a lot of people use them incorrectly, which adds to the confusion. First, let’s talk about making names plural.

Making Nouns Plural

For the most part, the rules for making names plural are the same as the rules for making any old nouns plural. If you’re talking about a whole family full of people with the last name Smith, for example, those people are the Smiths. Here are all the rules.

You probably know that you add -s to most words to make them plural.

  • card – cards
  • tree – trees
  • light – lights
  • present – presents
  • Henderson – Hendersons

You will notice that not a single one of these words has an apostrophe in it at all. That’s because an apostrophe is NEVER necessary when making a word plural.

Now let’s look at some words that end in -s, -z, -x, -ch, and -sh. To make those plural, you add -es, and I’ll give you an example sentence with each because these are getting trickier.

  • Christmas – Christmases (When I was single, I only had one Christmas each year, but now that I’m married, I have two Christmases – one with my family and one with Will’s family.)
  • Jesus – Jesuses (They had mismatched manger scenes at incredibly low prices. I cleaned them out of Baby Jesuses, which I made into ornaments!)
  • box – boxes (I wrapped all the boxes, but I forgot to put tags on them.)
  • church – churches (Many churches have Christmas Eve services.)
  • bush – bushes (I put lights on all the bushes in my yard.)
  • waltz – waltzes (Sad songs and waltzes aren’t selling this year.)
  • Rogers – Rogerses (The Rogerses are moving to Baltimore!)
  • Hernandez – Hernandezes (The Hernandezes got a new car.)

Once again, no apostrophes. That’s because an apostrophe is NEVER necessary when making a word plural.

Ok ONE more plural rule, and then I’ll stop (though I could go on). When a noun ends in a consonant + y, you change the y to i, and then add -es. **Note: Family names ending in -y do not change according to this rule. If a family’s last name ends in -y, just add an -s to it. (Clearys, Grimsbys)**

  • family – families family’s
  • mommy – mommies mommy’s
  • puppy – puppies puppy’s

Say it with me. An apostrophe is NEVER necessary when making a word plural. Ever.

Using Apostrophes

So what the heck do we use apostrophes for? Well, two things:

  1. Making contractions – When you smush two words together so hard that some of the letters pop out and fly away, you put an apostrophe there to mourn their absence. RIP “i” from is in it’s, the contraction of it and is. *moment of silence* So long fair “o” from not in aren’t, the contraction of are and not. *bows head*
  2. Making possessives – There are a few rules about this, and it gets a little sticky, but I think you can do it. Let’s go!

Here are the rules for using apostrophes to make possessives:

  1. Singular noun + ‘s – If a noun is singular, just add an apostrophe and s to make it possessive.
    – Bob’s car (1 man, 1 car)
    – the dog’s toys (1 dog, many toys)
    – Raleigh’s unemployment rate (1 city, 1 rate of unemployment)
    – James’s house (1 man, 1 house)
    – the bus’s tires (1 bus, many tires)
  2. Plural noun ending in -s + ‘ – If a noun is plural and ends in -s, you only need to add an apostrophe to make it possessive. You do not need another s at the end.
    – the dogs’ toys (many dogs, many toys)
    – the Joneses’ house (a family of many people with the surname Jones, 1 house)
    – the cities’ unemployment rates (many cities, many rates of unemployment)
    – my friends’ apartments (many friends, many apartments)
    – the buses’ tires (many buses, many tires)
  3. Plural noun not ending in -s (men, women, children, teeth, geese, etc.) + ‘s – Some plural nouns are irregular. They do not end in -s like normal plural nouns. To make these nouns possessive, you must add an apostrophe AND an s.
    – men’s jackets (many men, many jackets)
    – geese’s wings (many geese, many wings)
    – the children’s toys (many children, many toys)
    – people’s opinions (many people, many opinions)

Sample Christmas Card

So here’s some text from a sample Christmas card with corrections made:

Merry Christmas from the Jones’s Joneses!

We have had a great year! Both boy’s boys’ baseball team’s teams went to the playoff’s playoffs, and Tyler’s team won! Skylar’s team lost in the last game, but Sklyar was chosen as one of the MVP’s MVPs!

This is for educational purposes only. I swear I’m not trying to be a douche.

There you go, friends! The more I write, the more pedantic I feel, but I promise I’m not trying to be condescending or judgmental. I just want your loved ones to appreciate your sweet holiday card sentiments without losing respect for you. I know you’re smart, and I don’t want you to shoot yourself in the foot with apostrophes gone wild. If you have any questions about this AT ALL, please ask. I am more than happy to help you out!

Happy Holiday’s Holidays!

Verbal Crayon

I’ve always said that I’m better in writing, but I guess I do both pretty well. In the first year of the mentoring group you may have heard me talk about before, we decided at one point that each of us had a kind of super power. We gave each other nicknames to reflect our powers, some of which were cooler than others, I thought, but they were all pretty spot-on descriptors. They told me I was a verbal crayon because I was able to communicate with words in such a colorful, fun, beautiful way. They were so kind.

You guys have also been so kind. Thank you for your sweet words of encouragement as I process grief, loss, fear, anxiety, terrible sadness, hope, anger, guilt, pain, and love right out in the open in front of God and everybody. I don’t know what possessed me to write all of this in public and not in my own private journal (because the writing process is the same, and it’s therapeutic either way), but I’m glad I did. So many of you have told me that my words have been helpful to you, or that you think they might be helpful for someone you love. One friend who is a nurse even asked permission to refer patients to these words now and then. And y’all, I am honored and give permission freely to all of you to tell anyone and everyone about my silly little blog.

If you send someone to me please tell them – and if you’ve arrived here looking for support, help, strength, or encouragement after a miscarriage – 4 things:

  1. I’m so sorry. Losing a baby is awful, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone ever.
  2. All are welcome here. All are respected. All are loved.
  3. If you find things here that don’t help, just skip them. Come back to them later or just write them off forever. I’ve read so many well-intentioned things in the past month that have only left me in tears of frustration, anger, and hurt because I’m just not in the right place to receive those words. I may revisit them in two years and find that they ring true, or I may never go back to them at all. But right now, if they aren’t for me, they aren’t for me. The same goes for my words and you. If they aren’t for you, that’s ok.
  4. But if you find anything that helps, anything that brings hope, or anything that just makes you feel less alone, then I am so glad that I chose to process my pain in public.

Nothing will ever make losing a baby ok, but if anything I say about it helps someone else, then I feel like my daughter has a purpose, that she’s contributing to the world, that she’s working for hope and redemption, that she’s someone I can be incredibly proud of, and that she’s not entirely lost.

NaBloPoMo Table of Contents – September 2014

As I was scrolling through Facebook this morning, I saw a post from BlogHer about September’s NaBloPoMo. For those of you who don’t know, NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) is a challenge for bloggers to post daily. The official, annual challenge is usually in November, but you can do it any month, and each month has a different theme. Since September’s theme is healing, I thought now would be a good time to join in.

This is kind of a huge undertaking for me, but BlogHer provides daily prompts that you can use (or not). Since the theme of healing was chosen largely based on the recent events in Ferguson, MO (and the media coverage of those events), I’m going to use some of them, but since I’m focusing on my own healing process, I’m changing others to suit my needs.

As I post each one, I’ll try to remember to link to it from here so that this post will serve as a sort of table of contents.

Monday, September 1, 2014
Do you find it more helpful to talk things out or to let things quietly rest?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014
How do you communicate best? Speaking or writing?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014
What is the most helpful advice you’ve received (heard/seen/read) since your miscarriage?

Thursday, September 4, 2014
Why do you think it is so difficult for people to talk about miscarriage/stillbirth/infertility? PPROM

Friday, September 5, 2014
Tell us about your comfort foods.

Monday, September 8, 2014
Do you give yourself time to heal, or do you keep making yourself move forward?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Write a poem about your loss/grief.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Tell us the methods you use to get through a disappointment.

Thursday, September 11, 2014
What is the hardest stage for you in Kübler-Ross’s model of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, or acceptance?

Friday, September 12, 2014
Have you ever been scared to let go of your grief?

Monday, September 15, 2014
Do you believe that time heals all wounds?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Rumi said that a wound is where the light enters you. Discuss this idea.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Name five things that heal your soul.

Thursday, September 18, 2014
What are you the most sad about?

Friday, September 19, 2014
Tell us about your best friend.

Monday, September 22, 2014
If you had to make a mixtape of healing songs for someone, what would you include?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Tell us about the best movie to bring on a cleansing cry.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Do you think it is possible to heal on our own, or do we always need to reach out for the comfort of other people in order to fully heal?

Thursday, September 25, 2014
Ella’s Story

Friday, September 26, 2014
Is laughter really the best medicine?

Monday, September 29, 2014
How do you get through anger?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Make a commitment to give yourself an hour of undivided self-attention this week, and tell us how you’re going to use that time.

Addendum OR Getting a Taste of My Own Medicine

My husband and I are both writers. He writes fiction; I write non-fiction. We would both love to be able to make enough money with our writing to just do that all the time. I mean, who wouldn’t want to work from home in their jabambas, saving money on gas and car maintenance, and saving sanity by not having to drive on I-40 every day? Currently, however, neither of us is makingany money on writing projects, so we both have “real” jobs. To be fair to our “real” jobs, it’s important to note that we both like them. I actually love mine and would probably miss it if I quit entirely, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

My point is this…

After months and months of saying he wanted to finally write his freaking novel already, and after many conversations wherein I told him it would be hard, but he just needed to suck it up and make it happen if that was what he wanted, he is making progress. Since we got back from our honeymoon, the dude has been getting up at 6:30 every morning to write. I don’t know how he does that, but I couldn’t be prouder. Even on mornings when his brain can’t wake up enough to write anything before his writing time is up, he’s still doing more than I am.

So last night, when I was saying I also wanted to do more writing, I don’t know why I was surprised to hear my own advice coming back at me.

  • You just have to make time for it and stick to your schedule. No procrastinating.
  • A little bit at a time is ok. Every little bit counts.
  • So if your book needs to be 60,000 words, you break it up into, say, 20 chapters, and then you just write 2,000-4,000-word chapters.

Friends, I’m here today to tell you the eleventh thing that changes after you get married: Your spouse picks things up from you and uses them. It’s like a mirror. You give advice, and you get it back. You give encouragement, and you get it back. You say a certain word or phrase all the time, and you’ll start hearing it come out of his mouth. This is potentially dangerous, but it’s also potentially amazing, and y’all are smart enough to understand what I mean by that, so I won’t explain it any further. I’m just going to go ahead and count this instance as amazing.

Nostalgia

Hey remember a month ago when I blogged like twice?? Sigh. Yeah, that was nice. Here are some things I’ve been doing/thinking about since then:

  • I went kayaking in Asheville last weekend. It was beautiful, I got to see some good friends, and I spent all my money eating delicious food (and maybe also on a teeny-tiny little visit to Urban Outfitters). I’d like to go kayaking more often. I would not like to get sunburnt every time. Guess I should work on my base tan.
  • Whitney and I stopped at pretty much every Lowe’s and Home Depot off I-40 on the way home and lifted a bunch of paint sample cards (I want to call them paint chips, but that doesn’t feel right. Is that right?) to spruce up our accent wall. If you’d like to come over and get your hot glue on, feel free. We’re also thinking of having a house-warming party wherein our guests would help us with this project. Don’t miss it! This was a pretty fun way to break up a four-hour drive. At the first couple of stores, we both kept a watchful eye out for the employees working the paint department, feeling like we were doing something dangerous, but by the time we got to Greensboro, we were brazenly stuffing our bags with the things and commenting freely on the colors we were taking. No one seemed to care.
  • I got a new computer because I filled up my old one. Filled it full. It literally has maybe room enough for another album’s worth of songs. I haven’t named the new one yet. Any suggestions?
  • I’m teaching a new class at NC State, which is pretty hit or miss. I’ve never taught this class before, and I’ve never been given textbooks to use before or had to make a syllabus, so it’s taking a little while to figure out. What I’m learning is that 18-year-olds are lazy, but they think they’re really busy and super cool, I should rely on my own teaching smarts and lean on textbooks for idea-sparks and support, cultural differences are probably more difficult for the students but far more annoying for the teacher, and a two-hour class FLIES by when you’re used to four-hour classes. So basically, there are pros and cons, but I think once I figure out how to add my own flair to the class, it’ll be awesome.
  • In the past week, I’ve been a part of or witnessed at least four conversations that went something like this:
    A: I really want to be more ________.
    B: Um, you are already totally ________.
    This has got me very curious. I’m wondering why we feel like we’re not enough of things we already are, if the reason we notice the lack of these qualities is that we also (maybe subconsciously) notice their presence, how we go about becoming more of who we are, and how we can help each other along. Your thoughts are welcome.
  • I can’t WAIT for fall. Oh my gosh. I just want to run through a big shower of red and orange leaves while wearing a scarf! That’s all I want.
  • We got a basil plant. It’s dying. How do you keep basil from dying?
  • I’ve read about six books this summer, which is not much for some of you, but for me, that’s a lot. I needed to find one to read with my class this semester, though, so I had to plow through a few pretty quickly. Let’s see, there was Godric, which wasn’t an option for class, but it is lovely. It just has some really nice lines in it – the kinds of phrases that you want to turn over and over in your head and hang on to in your life. Then there was The Giver, Playing for Pizza, The Kite Runner, Holes, and Hoot. I think we’re going to read Hoot in class, but next up is The Book Thief. If you’d like a review of any of these titles, let me know. I’d be happy to oblige. It’d give me a solid blogging topic.
  • I want to write more. I miss it. I’ve got so many little bits and pieces of ideas and so many big chunks of things already done, but nothing is even close to being finished. Also, I just miss playing with words, getting phrases just right, saying exactly what it is I want to say, and telling stories. Stories are the best.
  • I should write down a story every day. Nothing big or even fictional. Just something that happened. It doesn’t have to have a moral or anything. Just a story.

Ok that’s enough. Time to make a flow chart to help students decide if they need to use other, another, the other, others, or the others. Fun times!

And Now for Some Good Writing

Last week in class, we watched How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and the post-movie writing assignment (because they don’t get anything for free) was to write an article on one of two topics:

  • How to Lose a Guy
  • How to Win a Woman

They could use ideas they got from the movie or from their own personal experience, and y’all, I’m seriously about to submit some of these to eHarmony because they are spot on and better-written than a lot of dating advice out there. I’ll just share one with you, and I’ve edited it, but really not much. This is pretty much exactly what they wrote.

12 Tips for How to Win a Woman

  1. Ask her for a date – When you ask a woman for a date, you have to be sure, direct, clear and polite. Don’t be shy and nuts.
  2. Take her to a nice place – You have to choose a nice and original romantic place.
  3. Buy things for her – They day after your date, try to send her flowers or chocolate if she told you that she likes it. Don’t stop buying things for her. Try to buy simple and nice stuff.
  4. Call her the day after your first date – When you do that, she will feel that you’re interested in her and it wasn’t just a moment. And try to tell her that you had a nice time with her.
  5. Listen to her – When she speaks, you have to pay attention to her words even if it’s little details. And don’t let her feel that she annoys you when she is talking because women like talking.
  6. Try to be honest – That’s a secret to winning a woman; you have to be honest all the time. Don’t lie because she has a lot of questions, and she can find out the truth. Women are smart in this point.
  7. Give her a good compliment – All the time, you have to make compliments about her style, her attitude and her look. Tell her that she is beautiful, sexy, glamorous and smart.
  8. Make her feel safe – You have to be a hero for her. You have to make her feel that she is protected by you. And if she has any problem, you have to be there for her. It doesn’t matter where and when, you have to be there when she needs your presence, and you have to make her feel that.
  9. Don’t bother her – Don’t ask her a lot of questions, especially when she doesn’t feel well. Be quiet if she gets angry, and when she calms down, she will understand your attitude.
  10. Show her your affection – Pay attention to her. Ask her about her problems and try to fix them with her. If she gets a problem, be with her.
  11. Make her laugh – Try to be funny. Make good jokes.
  12. Talk about your future – Tell her about your plans and what you want to do in your life. Ask her for help and her opinion about your plan.

I realize that some of these are contradictory, but I think they all have their place in wooing a lady. Do y’all have anything to add?

Adventure Time All the Time

There’s been a lot of talk in my life lately about adventure. Basically I want one. All the time, always. And I’m willing to go to great lengths to get one, which often means I leave the country. It’s almost like a drug, and my addiction to it started in high school with small things. I grew up in a small town that did not offer much in the way of wholesome entertainment for adolescents, so we had to make our own fun. They were silly things really – go to K-Mart and take pictures of each other inside big trash cans (clean ones they were selling, not dirty ones they were using), put weird things in friends’ mailboxes, sidewalk chalk friends’ driveways in the middle of the night, throw a frisbee onto the roof of the church, compile elaborate and precisely designed medleys and choreograph lip-sync routines for them. And this may come as a surprise to some of you, but we did all of these things totally sober.

The silliness continued into college, but as I got old enough and started making enough money to go on grander adventures, that is what I wanted to do. Ringing and running people’s dorm rooms just wasn’t as fun once we realized we could be at the beach at dawn and still get back in time for our 11:15 classes. Then it was driving through the night to catch a concert in Virginia Beach, a wedding in New Jersey and another concert in Raleigh all in about a 36-hour period. And before I knew it, I was on a plane to Honduras, then I was living in New York, backpacking through Europe, sleeping in airports with strangers, working at a community college in Raleigh…

Wait. Did anyone else just hear that record scratch?

The thing I love about adventure is that you come away with the best stories. I’m learning, though, that you can go on a big trip and not come away with a single awesome story, or you can stay right where you are and make your own adventure. When we were in high school, we didn’t even need to leave the neighborhood to do something we’d still be talking about fifteen years later. Shoot, when I worked at Caswell, we didn’t even have to leave the camp.

The secret is to find or make the fun wherever you are, and it can be as simple as doing something totally out of the ordinary. G.Lover and I were just on our way home from Durham, and we started talking about The Hunger Games. She hasn’t read the books yet, and I told her she could borrow my copy of the first one, but I thought it was at work. I work in a church building, and if you can believe it, those suckers gave me a key, so I suggested we go over there and get the book out of my cabinet. It was 10:30 on a Saturday night, so of course there was no one there, but we were both sort of nervous that there would be an alarm or a security person or something. And even though I’m at this place every day of the week, it felt completely wrong to be there on a weekend night. The red light coming from the exit signs was alarmingly bright, all the shadows were different, it was eerily quiet, and I was sure that the police would show up at any moment. On top of that, the book wasn’t there.

Another way to make your own fun is to develop your sense of curiosity and amusement. When I lived in New York, I was always fascinated by the people – who they were, how they became that, what they wanted, where they were going, why they were doing what they were doing. It was a never-ending source of entertainment. I miss that about NYC. I feel like people here are blander than there (friendly for sure, but nothing like this guy), but I’m starting to wonder if I came with that preconceived notion and therefore set Raleigh up to be boring before I ever arrived.

What if I spent more time out amongst the masses? What if I did more people watching and made up more stories about them? What if I made riskier mischief? What if I chose to be amused rather than annoyed? What if I spent less time watching Netflix and more time watching cloud formations or kids at the park or couch-to-5k-joggers at the lake? What if I were less concerned with my to-do list and more psyched about my karaoke song list, less worried about losing 20 pounds and more excited about salsa dance parties in my living room, less afraid of what people might think of my writing and more curious about what my characters might do? What if I had more fun on purpose? This sounds pretty awesome.

So here’s what I propose: For the month of April, I will do something creative, out of the ordinary, borderline crazy or just totally different every day in the name of fun and adventure. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments. I’m not promising I’ll do all the suggestions, and I will not sacrifice my morals or my sleep for any of them, but other than that, I am open to taking risks. And if you want to join me for any of them, I’d love that. Love it. Please join me.

Suggestions can be little things I can do it five minutes or big things that’ll take me a whole weekend. Whatever you’ve got, shoot.

Lost…Lost…Lost…I’ve Lost My Marbles

Y’all, seriously. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. I put things down, and they disappear. I can’t find my mailbox key, I keep forgetting to buy more almond milk, I have no idea what I was going to write about here just now, and I feel fairly certain I was supposed to do something. Oh. I remember. Please hold.

Ok, done. Whew. Apparently I haven’t blown all my brains out of my nose this week along with twenty pounds of snot. Hang in there, gray matter! I still need you! I know I haven’t used you much this week at all, but that’s just because you got such an intense workout last week, and I wanted to give you a rest. Plus, I’m tired. Oh so tired. But don’t worry, I have every intention of pulling you off the bench very soon because I feel like not being in school has made me stupider, and I’d really like to work on that.

I’ve been reading about William Tyndale, and one interesting thing I read last night was that while he was at Oxford, he used a book by Erasmus called De Copia, in which there was an exercise to give “no fewer than one hundred fifty ways of saying, ‘Your letter has delighted me very much,'” the point being to force students to “use of all the verbal muscles in order to avoid any hint of flabbiness.” I’m always telling my students how rich the English language is and teaching them new ways to say things so they don’t have to use the same, tired words all the time, but that only challenges them. It doesn’t challenge me. And I’ve found myself recently unable to think of the words I want. Simple words like “radiant” and…oh, see, I’ve forgotten them again. Something must be done.

I know I’m still recovering from a crazy week last week and a cold, but those are poor excuses for losing one’s marbles, and I’m far too young for that. I know I’ll never be one of those old people who does Sudoku to keep her mind sharp because Sudoku already makes me want to punch a baby, but maybe I’ll be a prolific letter-writer or something. Something.

And maybe one day I’ll find my mailbox key.

The Help: A Book Review by Beth Parent

I told myself several times yesterday that I would NOT stay up until all hours of the night finishing The Help. I’m trying to get back on a normal sleeping/waking schedule, see, because morning registration is tomorrow, and classes start back on Monday.

But then last night, I took the book to bed with me and read straight through to the end. I don’t even know what time I went to sleep because by the time I finished reading, my phone had turned itself off, which means it was at least 1:00 a.m. Dangit. No self control.

Anyway, The Help by Kathryn Stockett is great. I liked it a lot. I would almost say I loved it. The only thing I didn’t love about it, in fact, was the way it was told. The story is about black house maids and their white employers in Jackson, Mississippi in the early ’60s. Some chapters are from the perspective of one maid, some from that of another maid, and some in the voice of a young white woman who is sympathetic toward the maids, largely because she’d had a maid of her own growing up whom she loved dearly, but who has disappeared (not in a Dean Koontz sort of way, just nobody will tell her what happened).

I found the three perspectives to be a little bit confusing, especially when chapters from the points of view of the two maids were told back-to-back, because they had similar voices, and I kept having to remind myself who was talking.

Also (and I realize this is going to sound contradictory since I just said having three perspectives was confusing), there was a fourth major character whose perspective I wished I could have seen. If you’ve read the book, I’m talking about Hilly. I think it really would have rounded out her character (and the story) to let us see her and the the world through her own eyes.

The character development as a whole, however, was fantastic. I found myself doing each character’s voice in my head, and they were all completely distinct. By the time I was finished, I knew those people. Stockett does a great job of showing us the characters through their words and action. (Koontz, in stark contrast, spends a whole page explaining to us that one of his characters is “careful.” Then he kills him off. I might actually have to go reduce the number of stars I gave his book.)

The plot is good too. It’s relatable, it’s emotionally stirring, it moves right along, I didn’t roll my eyes at any of it, and I don’t think there’s anything in it, really, that is unnecessary. Even things like Skeeter’s mom’s health, which might seem like just unnecessary details of her life or fillers to make her chapters longer when Stuart’s not around, come into play in a significant way at some point. Nothing is wasted (except for Celia Foote at the party).

I’m giving The Help four stars, and I would recommend that you read it. It’s not my new most favoritest book on earth, but I really, really, really, really liked it. ****